Book Extract & Review: Lips Like Strawberries by Michael Stephenson

I am pleased to be welcoming Michael Stephenson to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for his novel, Lips Like Strawberries.

Here’s a little about the novel…

For some, it’s the eyes. For others, the heart. But for Ara Lake, the thing that first made her fall in love… was the taste of his lips.

Ara Lake has always thought of herself as living a normal life. She works a regular job, lives in the city and, like any single 30-year-old, fantasizes about finding someone to spend her life with that isn’t her best friend Latre Simms. There’s only one problem. She hasn’t left her apartment since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Three years later, her agoraphobia hasn’t fully kept her walled off from the outside world. She can thank her abnormal abilities for that! Ara’s superpower allows her to sense the world through someone else’s senses for 12 hours. Everything changes when her powers introduce her to a man whose lips taste succulent, juicy, and sweet, like her favorite fruit.

Now, she must embark on a journey of love, strength, and self-discovery that she never expected and isn’t fully sure will end well. But she has to learn to trust her own senses and, in a post-coronavirus world, give herself over to love at first kiss as she ventures to find the one with Lips Like Strawberries!

A romantic comedy for the modern era, Lips Like Strawberries will make you laugh, cry and acknowledge the strength it takes just to fall in love. A perfect beach read to cure our collective lockdown blues, get a taste for love today!

 

I have reviewed the novel below but first, Michael has shared an extract with us. Enjoy. 

 

*****beginning of extract*****

 

“Oh, sorry about that,” Ara said, apologizing for the over-touch.

The woman smiled, then let her face droop back into its resting mug. There it was again: a sullen, sad, almost depressing look, as if she knew profound sorrow. Very distracting. Not only did Ara have these powers, she was also an empath. The pain of others magnetized her to try to do something good for them. But because she didn’t know what to do, she simply stopped and stared at the woman walking down the hall.

The elevator arrived and the woman got on, only then breaking Ara’s trance. “Wait,” Ara called. “You didn’t tell me your…” The doors closed. “… name.” Ara looked down at the metal barrier between her apartment and the hallway. Her affliction was so bad that she couldn’t even enter the hall, let alone go outside. If she wanted to know that woman’s name, chasing after her was out of the question. “Eh! Maybe I don’t need to know your name.” It was always nice to know whose senses she shared, but not necessary. She closed her door and went to the kitchen for dinnerware.

She counter-ed the food and said, “Alright, let’s see what I get tonight. What sense are you gonna share with me… delivery girl.” She closed her eyes and focused on her abilities. This was the only way she knew how to activate and deactivate her powers. Holding her eyes shut tight, she raised her hands and crossed her fingers for something good and…

She suddenly tasted the distinctive flavor of cinnamon. Smacking her jaws up and down, she worked her tongue from cheek to cheek, then lamented, “Taste? What? Oh, come on!” She started unpacking the food, turned to get herself a plate, shuffled across the kitchen to the utensils drawer and even grabbed a bottle of water off the top of the fridge, all while complaining. “Taste. That’s great. That’s lovely. I get the sense of taste from a girl that works in a Chinese restaurant, the very Chinese restaurant that I just ordered from. Gosh! I wonder if I’m going to be tasting any Chinese food at any point in the night? So stupid!”

The last time she got taste it came from a FedEx delivery man. His job gave her no idea of what she might taste. But whenever she got taste from someone who worked with food, in the few times per year she did get taste, she guessed she’d taste food from where they worked. This was akin to getting super excited to watch your favorite show live that week, only to turn to it and see a repeat. How disappointing.

“Great! Now I gotta experience 12 hours of the same food over and over again. That’s terrific. That’s really… terrifi-great,” she said. When she started making up words that meant she was really disappointed. Such nonsense!

For the next few hours, Ara’s assumptions proved correct. She tasted the China Chef menu. Over and over again. Same dishes. Every so often she’d sit up, lick her lips and say, “Oh great, ham fried rice again.” If it wasn’t that it was, “Shrimp chips and a Coke. Shrimp chips and a Coke. How many times do you need to eat shrimp chips and drink a Coke?” Later: “Wow! So you’re just spooning down hoisin sauce, huh? Not gonna actually try eating some of the ribs, just… hankerin’ for hoisin.”

And finally, “Yes, water please. More water. More plain, unfiltered, kinda disgusting tap water.”

She calmed down at 11 o’clock and, as they say, came to her senses. Though the senseperience hadn’t concluded, she found peace in its badness. “Get ahold of yourself, Ara. There’s no reason for you to complain. It’s not your life, it’s hers. It’s something they’re sharing with you and they don’t even know they’re sharing it. If anything, you should be thankful for the opportunity. Be thankful. Be more thankful. Tomorrow’s a new day, with a new sense.” She left her master bathroom and said, “Goodbye cruel today. I shall see you tomorrow!”

She slid into her bed, took off her clothes under the covers and grabbed her tablet. Ara stayed up half an hour more, flicking through social media before falling asleep. “Hmph! Taste,” her final words. The one thing she forget to do: turn off her powers for the night.

It happened at midnight. A deep slumber? Hardly. That’s how she knew she hadn’t dreamt it. No, she experienced it. She threw herself awake, lunging up to sit. “What? What is this?”

This was a feeling, a sense. She felt them. She felt them pressed against her lips. A second pair of lips pressed against hers. She could tell they were lips. The tip of her tongue outlined the plushy soft flesh of another. And they were just wet enough to lay a soft silk of taste across her own lips, as if glossing them with love. But above all, it was the taste.

“That taste,” she breathed into the air. She laid her fingers gently upon her lower lip. “So sweet. It’s… god, I know that taste. What is that taste?” she craved to know, needed to know. Sweet, but not a manufactured sweetness, not a baked confectionery or sugar-drenched soft drink. No, this came from nature. It reminded of juice of a fruit. But what fruit?

She knew it! The sweetness, the softness, the juiciness of the kiss. It tasted… “Like strawberries! Lips that taste like strawberries.” Her words moistened the air with anticipatory excitement. She may have only felt the lips upon her lips, but the sensory perception quivered through her entire body. She was taken in rapture, a rhapsody brought on at the end of the lips of another. This was more than heaven. This was Nirvana, heaven and eternal sunshine all combined.

Orgasmic!

Ecstatic!

And yet, oh so cataclysmic! Panting like she had run a thousand marathons, she fell back onto her bed with a sense of giddiness vibrating through her being. Her fall not just into pillows, she couldn’t help but to feel it deep in her marrow. She had fallen in love with just one kiss. “Wooohh!” she exhaled.

 

*****end of extract*****

 

 

About Michael Stephenson:

Michael enjoys writing in every genre and platform. Covering a wide range of subjects, ethnicities, socio-economic classes, and ideals, his writing runs the gambit from silly and light-hearted to thought-provoking and sensual to horrifying and captivating. Offering everything from sci-fi to romance, he wishes to supply the reader with an indelible experience.

Privately, he seeks to accomplish great things with his writing in both popular culture as well as more niche genres. He hopes to soon write for film again, as he had briefly before, and aspires to write the screenplay for the film adaptation of Captain Planet as he loves the environment.

He tends to dislike taking pictures but enjoys TV and film just as much as books. He runs a Goodreads group entitled: Shows similar to Breaking Bad, Scandal and other Popular shows.

Say hello to Michael on Goodreads and Twitter

 

My verdict on Lips Like Strawberries…

I didn’t quite know what to expect from this novel when I signed up to the blog tour. I found the premise very interesting – a woman who can’t leave her apartment but can experience life through the senses of others. I can only imagine how that would feel.

Ara is a somewhat complicated person. I could very much relate to her, especially with the not wanting to go out due to the COVID-19 thing. When having to stay in has become the new normal for a lot of people, I think it’s something a lot of people can relate to. I wanted her to be OK.

Latre is a wonderful supporting character and the relationship Ara has with him is great. They had love for each other that was nice to see.

I really wanted to see whether Ara would find her mystery man whose lips tasted like strawberries and this made me not want to put this book down, even when I should have been sleeping. I wanted to see her overcome her fears and improve her mental health state. Yes, she is looking for this guy but this story is as much about Ara rediscovering herself, making new human connections beyond her current life and having less fear about the world.

The cross with Ara’s power and new technology weaves a wonderful story about hope, love, friendship and living a life in a fearless way despite the harmful things in the world, including a global pandemic.

I am not going to say anything else as I don’t want to give anymore away. What I will say it that Lips Like Strawberries was a lovely escape and I loved it.

Click to view Lips Like Strawberries on Amazon UK and Amazon US

 

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Laura
I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts.

I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

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